This is a story about a first-hand experience I had recently with a service. I am not naming the service, the goal of this post isn’t to name-and-shame. Instead, I want to highlight an issue that happens on various websites all over the web. I am a user experience designer by trade. I am also a “regular user”, sometimes, though my experience with the web and UX usually makes me a bad usability test participant. Regardless, on with the story.
I am moving house in the near future, so I went online to look for moving companies. I found one that also offers re-usable boxes for free if you book your move with them! Sold. On to the booking process. Since I haven’t moved the current contents of my home before, I have no idea about the size of truck I need. Is the smallest truck big enough? I’ll select it to see what happens. To my relief, a help text appears as soon as I select the option. “Ideal if you are only moving a few large pieces of furniture”... Hmm, that’s not me, I’m moving the whole house. Finally I settle on the “ideal for 1-2 bedroom apartments” option. All good.
Once I make the booking for the move, I am prompted to book my boxes as well, separately. I’m not sure why this is separate, but I play along.
Step 1 - postcodes. They already know this because I booked a move with them, but they are asking regardless. I enter the post codes, at least it’s quick.
Step 2 - minimum order warning, I need to pick at least $69 worth of goods, and then this:
I get to choose between all sorts of packages and rental times and prices. Wait, what? I thought they were free… I go back to read the Ts&Cs attached to my booking email and realise that two week’s worth of box rental will be refunded to me after the move. Okay, so it is free… I go back to my box booking tab.
I realise that I should be looking in the two week column if I don’t want to pay extra. How many boxes? Again, I don’t know. There are “pack” options, 25, 35, 50, 70, 100 box packages. I cannot tell how big they are, and the site has absolutely no hint on how much stuff a box can take. Under “individual items” I see a medium and a large box listed. I can order these separately. I still don’t know what’s in the packages though. I’m oscillating between the 35 and the 50 package and decide to go with the latter, just in case. It is free after all. Seeing that they also offer tape and bubble wrap, I add those too, even though I have no idea about the price. How expensive can they possibly be, right?
Next, I’m prompted to select delivery times. I get a column of three calendars, pretty nice ones where I can click on any date in the future. I click one a couple of days prior my move, to say that is when I’d like my boxes to arrive.
I fiddle around with these calendars a bit, because I think the second one down the line is the collection date. But it’s not, if I click there, all I’m doing is changing the delivery. So I click “continue” and get another calendar for “pickup”. New screen. I notice that it doesn’t block off the “2 weeks” from my start date automatically. Instead, it lets me select another random date. Takes me a while to work out what is going on and to realise that I have to remember that first date and manually calculate 2 or 3 weeks from it, even though I already told the system that I want a two week rental. There is minuscule help text about this, which is of little help…
Frustrating, but I’m rather committed at this stage so I muddle through. The bubble wrap price appears eventually as well, I get the total and make the booking. Confirmation email arrives, everything is ok. This is the point when I actually understand why they put me through the double booking process. The boxes are offered by a different company. Ah HA!
I start searching to see if any other mover is using the same boxes, just for fun. I land on a page, with useful descriptions of the various box packages and I find out, to my horror, that I’ve ordered enough boxes to pack up a 3-bedroom apartment. Oops. I go back to my email to see if there is a “modify order” link, but since there isn’t, I just shrug and decide to receive all the boxes and return them empty instead. They do offer a phone number, but I'd rather not waste my time and money calling them up.
There is, of course, a lot of room for improvement in the user flow described above, such as the following:
- they could have a single checkout flow that communicated with the other system in the background, transmitting the data only.
- they should be able to take your selected move date when booking the moving services and suggest delivery/pickup dates for the boxes based on that.
- they could offer explanations of what each box package means in terms of volume and capacity and approximately how many boxes are commonly needed for a one bedroom, two bedroom, and so on, apartment.
- once you’ve selected the rental time period and the start date, it could automatically calculate the pickup (end) date for you, all in one calendar, without the confusing mess of the current solution.
- they could let you edit your order for a certain amount of time before delivery, just in case you’ve missed something (or you’ve realised that you ordered way too many boxes :-) ).
- they could tell you the price of bubblewrap, etc. when you are prompted to select it, not several screens after.
These are some of the solutions this company could implement to improve the UX of their product. Some of these might be costly, for instance: paying for the software modifications to allow communication between the two systems or allowing order editing. Some, on the other hand should be simple to fix. Only fixing one of these issues, namely offering people some hint about what those boxes can hold, would lead to huge savings. It’s pretty obvious how helping users work out their real need translates into less wasted effort in delivering and collecting boxes that will never be used, decreasing the wear and tear on them and increasing their availability to other customers.
A simple usability test is an excellent way to find issues like the one above that your system might have. Sometimes issues found during usability tests are quick to fix and translate to major accumulated savings over time, not to mention happier users.
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